Drawing on exclusive interviews with Sarah Vaughan’s friends and former colleagues, jazz-historian Elaine Hayes (a former editor of Earshot Jazz magazine) has written a lively and moving portrait of the passionate and tenacious jazz singer. Hayes gracefully narrates Vaughan’s life, from her childhood-church-choir days in 1930s Newark, N.J., and her first major performance at age 18 at Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to her career of singing bebop with Billy Eckstine, Earl Hines, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker. Hayes traces Vaughan’s growth as a successful pop artist—which she dictated on her own terms—as well as her failed marriages and her canny ability to make a range of musical styles her own. Vaughan dealt with shady business managers and unscrupulous producers who wanted to shape her in their image, but she held strong and continued to focus on her singing, which, as Hayes astutely explains, represented for her “autonomy, independence, and an opportunity for self-realization… it was her salvation.” Hayes’s blending of the cultural history of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s with his lucid critical insights into Vaughan’s recordings and her life makes this book a detailed look at a fearless singer who constantly moved into new musical territories and left a legacy for younger musicians.

Elaine M. Hayes. Ecco, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-236468-5

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